This post’s been in draft mode for a while now. The inspiration for it was at the start of my last IV round and it’s been a doozy since then.
I think originally I was thinking maybe I would share once I was feeling a bit better, but that time never came as I was pretty sick through that last treatment and then it was immediately time to get my shit together to move lol.
So, here we are, a number of months later, finally re-seeing and re-sitting with this photo of Vel and I.
Vel is an Internal Radiology (IR) nurse. She does a number of things in IR, but one of them is keeping track of patient’s vitals while they are in procedures there. Having had over 60 PICC lines in my life, and a good amount of those being in Highland IR, Vel and I have a history together. I know a number of them on the team. I’ve seen a number of nurses, techs, and doctors come and go in this department, and I will miss them and the familiarity of this space as my “IR home”, but Vel has a very unique and special place in my heart.
Usually I am in IR for PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) placements. I prefer not to be given any kind of anesthetic, besides a local numbing agent. This is so I can be an active participant in the placement and work with my body in guiding the tubing in towards my heart. (I get that this isn’t for everyone. However, for me, with the amount of scar tissue I have and my body’s tendency to not let the little buggers in, I have found that I can be helpful as an active participant in opening my vessels. Plus, the less my body has to clear, the better it does as a whole. It has also been an opportunity to educate providers. More on this for another entry.)
Because of being alert and awake, I have gotten to know many of the team more than most and we’ve had some interesting on going conversation. Also, making the choice to consciously let caregivers in to my insides and heart space is actually a pretty big deal. So, as I said, I remember most, if not all of them, but there are a few that have made a lasting impression. Vel is one of these people.
Vel is one of the nurses who might welcome patients when they come to the “holding pen”, the area where you wait before being taken into the IR sterile procedure room. There’s a fair amount that happens here, but one of the things is that you are (hopefully) met. Someone says hello, checks on you, and preps you for the procedure. Vel always greets with a calm smile and asks if there’s anything you need before diving in to the nitty gritty.
But here’s why I want to share about Vel the most:
I have had a number of PICC lines with this team, but on two occasions I have had to have a procedure called a BAE (bronchial arterial embolization). The last one that I had was due to a more intensive lung bleed. In the shortest nutshell I can provide, it’s when they go in and try to find and stop an area of bleeding that is happening in the lungs and fill it with either a coil or a plastic like material. The procedure has it’s risks so it’s not something you want to do unless you need to. These procedures are also done in IR. For the last one, Vel was one of the nurses with me. I was scared. I was really scared. I couldn’t get my body to stop shaking or my teeth to stop chattering after being wheeled into IR. I do take a level of sedation for this procedure as it is more involved (they enter in through the leg and it takes longer and has higher risk), but they could not sedate me at first because my oxygen level was not high enough to do so yet. After what seemed like forever, and a little external help, my O2 levels came up and they were able to give me a little something to take the edge off. I had to keep my body and my breath as calm as possible (they have to keep you awake enough to be responsive during this procedure due to potential nervous system complications). I usually, during a difficult procedure, pick a spot on the wall or in the equipment that isn’t moving to focus my attention. This ability to focus intently is what allows me to stay and leave at the same time (again, more for another post). It is a skill I learned at a young age during my first hospital stays.
However, at one point during this procedure, a complication was arising. I could hear the doctor’s concern and the shift in the room. I was having a hard time finding a spot. The “forget everything” sedetive was there, but I remember this time as clear as yesterday. I was friggin scared.
Vel must have seen my vitals shift and she came right into my my view, so that I could see her face.
She came closer to my side and looked me right in the eyes.
She said, “I’m right here. Stay right here. Just focus on my eyes.”
I could see her own concern, but what I felt most prominently was her right there.
Right there with me. “Just focus on my eyes.”
That moment, that moment of willingness, accessibility, and caring was a bridge for me.
A bridge into some sense of safety, being seen, and held by her eyes and her heart in the scary.
It was all that I needed to be able to stay mentally and get through and it was so incredibly important to me.
I was reached, touched, and her heart print has remained with me since.
Eventually, as all things do, this complication resolved and the procedure ended.
Even after the close of the surgery, when the doctor was speaking to me about what he had found and done, I could still feel Vel, her invitation to stay.
There have been many visits back to IR since then (no more BAE’s to this point thank goodness). But I have never forgotten that time or the steadfast kindness that Vel shared with me.
Her willingness to open her heart through her eyes and meet me was such a beauty-full gift.
We never really talked about that time, but this July, when I was back in IR once again, for another PICC placement, I decided to share with her how important her eyes were to me, how important she was to me, and how grateful I was for her care.
I told her that I just wanted her to know that I have never forgotten what she offered me that day. That it mattered to, and will stay with me no matter distance or time.
She remembered and thanked me for sharing.
We had a hug and quick photo (the one above) and knew that the words just didn’t do it.
That BAE was at least 7 years ago now, I have to look to figure out the exact date.
What I do know for sure is that Vel, her eyes, and kindness, will be with me forever.